The much-hyped meeting between Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and new PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu on Friday appeared a photo-op while many INC leaders wondered if the bonhomie between the warring factions for public consumption was real.
As his name was called out at the installation ceremony, Sidhu rubbed his hands in anticipation, eager for the speech. He went past the chief minister, seated next to him, then touched the feet of party leaders Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Lal Singh sitting at the end of the first row on the dais.
Even though the INC high command may have intervened to paper over the cracks, many leaders remain uncertain of the united face of the state unit lasting till the assembly polls due in 2022. “One could sense a cold vibe when Amarinder and Sidhu posed with the large garland, along with outgoing PCC chief Sunil Jakhar and the AICC man in charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat,” said a party leader.
Another MLA said, “Sidhu indulged in aggressive posturing in his speech on various issues, but it will be closely watched if there is coordination between the state government and the party. He has also been repeatedly referring to the 18-point agenda of people’s issues given by the party high command but most of it has to be implemented by the chief minister.”
In his speech, Amarinder Singh emphasised his seniority over Sidhu. “Let me tell you about my relationship with him. He (Sidhu) was born in 1963 and I was commissioned in the IMA and sent to the China border. His father had worked with my mother in Congress. She was the district president of Patiala and he was the sole general secretary. In 1970, when I quit the Army, my mother wanted me to enter politics. She asked me to join politics and we had several meetings. He (Navjot) was about 6 years old when I used to visit his house,” he said.
“The party managed to pull off the ceremony as a result of the intervention by the central leadership,” said a party MLA.